So far, the Work In Progress blogs have concentrated on text. Now I am looking for an artist, or photographer, or designer, or editor, or author-working-with-art-design-photography. I’d like to use this space to follow some of the decisions about which art to use, how to use it, how to narrate visually that come up in non-fiction. I am told by SLJ that we can overcome most of the technical issues. So, artists, designers, contact me here or via my website, I’d like the world to learn about what you do as partners in creating nonfiction for younger readers.
Several Of You Asked About How the 9th Graders Fared?
Overall, they did well, with some great examples, and some kids who seemed as lost at the end as they were at the start. There was, as there would be in any class, great variety. But a few of my baseline beliefs were confirmed: they students responded well to the prompt to think, to question, to formulate a statement that could be defended. And the boy-nonfiction connection was there in full glory. One kid found the site for the Tesla — a cool looking sportscar that, it is said, gets 200 miles per electric charge. They were all "up" on the environmental issues around gas (as well, I am sure, as the rising cost of fuel). And to find a car that apparently was eco friendly and looked hot, was a source of endless fascination. Then the set of boys interested in weapons and military tactics were, as a group, the best of the lot. They already knew a great deal, and were ready, even eager, to formulate a historical question and defend it. The architecture boys were similar to the weapons guys — pretty clear and focused.
On the way back, stuck in O’Hare, I had dinner with a businessman I met on the endless line to buy bad food. He said he is dislexic, did poorly in reading in school. All he ever wanted to do was build things. Building, making, learning the rules so you can craft something so that it exists in the world — that was his passage to reading. He wanted structure, order, rules, that added up to making something. I saw that with many of the boys. Though there was a whole set of cool philosophers who wanted to question reality, reform the world, make us over into communists, or philosopher kings. On the girl side, there was a spread between those interested in the role of women — mainly seeing a long history of unfairness and oppression, continued to this day (I showed them the NOW site, which, was a kind of parallel to the Tesla site as a source of interest) — and those interested in subjects from food, to art, civil rights, education to one who was particularlly interested, again, in weapons.
Many of the kids needed help — for one of the adults to help them focus, nail down a plausible research topic. But overall, it was most reassuring — thinking is alive and well in 9th grade.